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General Medical Questions
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Question : I can’t decide whether I should get a flu shot. I am two months pregnant. What are your thoughts?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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January 12, 2012
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A:

It’s a good idea for everyone 6 months of age and older to get a vaccination against influenza. This is especially true for pregnant women and those who expect to become pregnant. Pregnancy puts women at a higher risk of getting serious health problems if they get seasonal flu.

Still, I understand your uncertainty. For most pregnant women, protecting the health of their unborn baby is their No. 1 concern. So many won't take a medicine or have a medical procedure unless they know that it’s absolutely safe for the baby.

Here’s why I think you should get the flu shot:

  • The flu shot can protect infants who can’t get a vaccination. The mother can pass protective antibodies to her unborn child. These may help protect the baby after birth.
  • If you do get the flu, you have a higher than average risk of getting pneumonia. Pneumonia lowers your blood oxygen level. This means your unborn baby may not get the oxygen needed for normal development.
  • Having the flu in pregnancy raises your risk of a miscarriage or giving birth too early.
  • Flu usually causes a fever, sometimes a very high fever. Women who have a fever during early pregnancy are more likely to deliver a baby with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida.

Some people worry about the preservative used in many vaccines. The preservative is called thimerosal. The safety of thimerosal has been extensively studied. There is no scientific evidence of any harmful effects on babies when mothers get shots that have this preservative.

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